That’s Why I’m Always Late


In Vietnam, I always find myself racing the clock with my scooter on its highest speed just to make it to school before they close the gate.

Here in Chicago, I always find myself constantly in misery on a random public transportation hoping the operator would somehow magically finish the route 5 minutes faster, so I can get to class just 2 minutes late.

Don’t judge me just yet. I, too, questioned myself about this problem so many times that I lost counts. The conversation would start like this: “Am I a bad person?” – “No”. “Am I disrespectful to people?” – “No”. “Do I want to be though?” – “No”. “Then why am I always late?”. And the conversation ends right before I even think about the possibility that I am responsible for this that and should be charged guilty of not arriving on time for everything.

As an international student, I went straight from being taken care for by my parents to moving out and living on my own. This means that I have to adapt to the responsibilities of an adult: from the simplest tasks like taking out the trash to the most complicated tasks like learning how to file tax return. And this was a bit of a “throw-off” for me to be honest. Who knows taking out the trash takes a ton of willpower to really do it, and who knows you have tax to file when no one, even your Hiring Manager, gives you an official notification about your tax bracket. My point is, people talk about big things like getting married, buying a house, and climbing the career ladder as remarks of adulthood, but simply being on time for events is a big obstacle to many of us.

Technology grows, and it indeed serves people with a more convenient lifestyle. Younger people are more likely to lose focus on their real life as they are afraid of missing out on other people’s life. FOMO, which stands for “Fear of Missing Out”, is a mental state that people tend to experience while having interaction with social media. Technology advancement brings people together and shrinks the world into the size of their palms. For our generation, it is not about the face-to-face communication anymore as mostly everything is via emails, text messages, and video call. We do not care about the “real time”, but rather we care about whether the job is done or the quality of it. Then, in this 21st century, why on earth would punctuality still be a matter when people can work remotely from home and get things done before the deadline just fine?

“Millennials have a 24/7 always-on approach to work so coming in late at 9:45am isn’t a big deal,” Ryan Jenkins, Millennial and Generation Z speaker and generations expert, wrote,” since they were sending emails since they woke up at 7:00am and plan to work until 11:00pm.”

Millennials consider chronological time secondary comparing to “event time”, and it is not all their fault to blame. When it comes to perception of time, M-time cultures tend to take chronological time seriously as they prefer to make clear plans and manage their time precisely, while P-time cultures are more laid back as they adapt to “event time” and like to multi-task for convenience. Although this difference in behavior represents regions and countries, it may represent an abrupt shift from Generation X work pace to Millennials work pace. As us Millennials are the generation that has the most exposure to technology and social media, they have a significant impact on how we work and perceive our world. For instance, Generation X gets their work done mostly through face-to-face interaction as technology was not sufficiently effective to allow them to work remotely from home. For Millennials, we also have the same goal, which is “get the work done”, but we have better convenience and are allowed flexibility to prioritize which ever task needs to be done as we are always available even when we are not in office. My point is that technology may have had an impact on us in a way that we did not expect, like shifting from time-oriented to work-oriented.

For some of us, we are still young it feels like we have all the time in the world. We don’t really cry over a couple of spilled minutes and we count the completion of the job more important than time. However, for some, it might not be the same. Thus, understanding this difference can help us become more flexible with our business partners. To me, it is okay to sometimes show up late to work, as long as there is no task that is involved other people on that day or there are no planned appointments and events for the day. Other than that, I am all about the productivity and “getting the job done” with the best quality possible.

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Just a puzzle piece finding her place in the world's jigsaw.

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